The country was going into its own war, which it considered of importance, and it called upon Jimmie Higgins and the rest of his associates to register for military service. In the month of June ten million men came forward in obedience to this call—but Jimmie, needless to say, was not among them. Jimmie and his crowd thought it was the greatest joke of the age. If the country wanted them, let it come and get them. And sure enough, the country came—a sheriff, and some thirty farmers and turpentine-workers sworn in as deputies and armed with shot-guns and rifles. Should their sons go overseas to be killed in battle, while these desperadoes continued to camp out on the country, living on hogs and chickens which honest men had worked to raise? They had wanted to break up this “jungle” for some time; now they could do it in the name of patriotism. They surrounded the camp, and shot one man who tried to slip out in the darkness, and searched the rest for weapons, and then loaded them into half a dozen automobiles and took them to the nearest lock-up.
So here was Jimmie, confronting a village draft-board. How old was he? The truth was that Jimmie did not know definitely, but his guess was about twenty-six. The draft-limit being thirty, he swore that he was thirty-two. And what were they going to do about it? They didn’t know where he had been born, and they couldn’t make him tell—because he didn’t know it himself! His face was lined with many cares, and he had a few grey hairs from that night of horror when his loved ones had been wiped out of existence.
These farmers knew how to tell the age of a horse, but not how to tell the age of a man!
“We’ll draft ye anyhow!” vowed the chairman of the board, who was the local justice of the peace, an old fellow with a beard like a billy-goat.
“All right,” said Jimmie, “but you’ll get nothin’ out o’ me.”
“What d’ye mean?”
“I mean I wouldn’t fight; I’m a conscientious objector to war.”
“They’ll shoot ye!”